Often, users experience slow upload speeds even though their download speed is functioning at a lightning-fast level. Unless you are accessing the internet via dedicated fiber, Native Ethernet, Optical Wavelength Service (OWS), leased lines, EoFTTC (Ethernet over Fiber to The Cable), EFM (Ethernet First Mile), or Ethernet over copper (EoC), your connection is likely to have different upload speeds vs download speeds (this is known as asymmetrical). Internet connections with the same upload and download speeds are termed Symmetrical.

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Understanding Upload Speed Vs Download Speed

Upload Speed

Upload speed is defined as the number of megabits of data sent per second from your computer to the server on the internet or another device. While most business internet activity involves downloading, some tasks require data to be uploaded as well. This is commonly seen when you send emails, use a VoIP phone, upload Microsoft 365 documents to SharePoint, or play live video games over the internet at work! For business locations, with fewer than five people, asymmetrical service may be fine as long as the service (typically cable coax or DSL) has 10 Mbps or more upload speed. For 6-15 people, CarrierBid typically recommends 20 Mbps upload speed or greater if it is available. For 16 or more people, a dedicated connection will most likely be needed. Keep in mind that an asymmetrical internet circuit IS widely used as a secondary backup or BGP enabled circuit so you may want to have both a dedicated circuit and an asymmetrical circuit to improve reliability.

An upstream speed of 3 Mbps for a home user is often considered as an acceptable upload speed, however, if multiple members in your household work from home via the internet, then it is recommended to implement an internet circuit with much higher speeds for uploading data as streaming can conflict with business and VoIP usage.

Download Speed

Download speed refers to the number of megabits of data that gets downloaded per second from a server. This data can be in the form of videos, images, text, etc. For less than five business users, a download speed of a minimum 25 Mbps may meet the required broadband threshold and is therefore, considered a reasonable connection speed.

Activities like streaming videos on Netflix or listening to music on stations like Spotify are some instances where you are required to download data, however, your online activity, the number of devices connecting to your network, as well as the number of users accessing your internet connection will have a strong bearing on your download speed. CarrierBid found that businesses located near residential areas, can often see decreased speeds during the afternoon hours as children and teenagers get home from school and begin online gaming along with video/audio streaming. The reason for this problem is that most cable coax providers have designed a shared fiber and coax infrastructure for a given sector of the city and when users increase dramatically, all are negatively impacted. Interestingly, DSL services provided by the Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) are not typically impacted in this way but DSL may not be available at the higher bandwidths a business might see with cable coax. We normally recommended that IT departments disable audio/video streaming in business locations to limit the possible negative impacts of this type of usage on bandwidth as well.

As a general rule, CarrierBid recommends purchasing the highest amount of download bandwidth speed that you can afford since it typically will pay for itself in productivity gains for your employees and improves employee morale since each activity they undertake can be accomplished quickly without the need to wait for a slow internet connection. Additionally, as more businesses convert to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or UcaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), managing bandwidth will ensure data usage won’t impact voice quality. Further, the IT team can enable QoS, (Quality of Service) which will prioritize critical voice traffic.

Is It Normal for Upload Speed and Download Speed to Differ?

It is very common for internet service providers to offer plans with higher download speeds than upload speeds since they don’t want businesses to host servers over low-cost, low-margin cable coax and DSL connections that are based in homes or business locations. Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) or Carriers really want businesses to purchase high-speed fiber optic connections that are much more profitable and more difficult to displace by the service of a competitor.

Understanding Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Internet Connections

In data networking terms, symmetry and asymmetry refer to the connectivity and the speed of data flowing in the two directions. The difference between these connection types is explained below:

Symmetrical Internet Connections

In simple terms, symmetrical internet connections offer no difference between the connection’s upload speed vs download speed. The biggest benefit of such a connection is that users can get the same high speeds regardless of the application that they’re using and regardless of the direction of the data flow. Some of the popular symmetrical connections include Native Ethernet fiber optic services, EFM (Ethernet First Mile), Optical Wavelength Service (OWS), leased lines, EoFTTC (Ethernet over Fiber to The Cabinet), and Ethernet over Copper (EoC). These connections help ensure uncontended internet access to enable users stream data at faster speeds at all times irrespective of the direction of data.

Symmetrical connections are recommended if your business setting requires extensive use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions such as hosted telephony. This type of internet connection helps you avoid any delays while ensuring excellent audio quality at the same time.

Advantages of Symmetrical Internet Connections

  • Faster File Uploads – uploading files to the cloud can take forever if you do not have the required upload speed. With a symmetrical internet connection, users can upload just as fast as they can download. This will allow you to get the upload tasks done without waiting for off-peak usage hours or with a loss of productivity.
  • Lack of Internet Bottlenecks – it is possible for your data to get ‘clogged’ as a result of low available bandwidth, especially during high traffic periods at your business. This can be easily noticed in the form of dropped calls and slow uploads. In such cases, having a symmetrical internet connection is an assurance that your upload speeds will be less likely to undergo strain resulting from high usage. This is also essential to ensure that there is no reduction in employee productivity levels.
  • Redundant and Diverse Fiber Design can DRAMATICALLY improve Reliability – For critical sites or data centers, CarrierBid will work with two providers to ensure fiber path diversity and redundancy is in place. We’ll design a solution where fiber enters the building on the “West” from Carrier A and the “East” from Carrier B. Further, one carrier can be asked to use Native Ethernet and the other Optical Wavelength Service (OWS) as the local loop methodology. That way, the likelihood of an outage will be greatly reduced. As a part of this process, the carriers provide detailed fiber path maps which we overlay with each other to ensure there is no common point of fiber or equipment that will negatively impinge service. In the rare case where there are not two carriers available who have their own fiber assets, we can also work with the single provider to design a solution that is nearly as redundant and diverse in which both fiber connections use different technologies, different fiber paths and also home to two different carrier POP’s (Point-of-Presence).
  • Cloud Access – more and more enterprises are moving towards storing their information on the cloud. This is mainly to enable flexibility at an organization-wide level. However, cloud service can be a waste of time, money, and effort if your employees are unable to access the cloud when they need it. Reliable access to the cloud requires sufficiently high upload speeds. This can be achieved by implementing a symmetrical internet connection. A symmetrical internet connection with its equal upload as well as download speed can ensure that your cloud services are accessible as well as reliable.

Asymmetrical Internet Connections

In a typical small branch office location, you will notice a substantial difference between upload speed vs download speed. This is because ISPs usually offer asymmetrical internet connections for a very low cost. This is a direct result of internet activity which is typically seen as more download-intensive than otherwise. Asymmetrical connections are recommended for office environments where there is no rigid bandwidth requirement. Typically, asymmetrical connections are the traditional DSL, cable coax and FTTC connections. Contrary to what some might say, asymmetrical connections are considered more efficient than symmetrical connections. This is because most office environments are not required to spend equally on upload and download speeds since not all users will require high-speed internet upload data access. Therefore, in such cases, it makes more sense to implement asymmetrical connections with a higher download speed than upload speed. With DSL, cable coax and FTTC, you can achieve sufficiently high download speeds even if upload speeds are limited.

Advantages of Asymmetrical Internet Connections

  • Cost – Price is the biggest advantage of implementing an asymmetrical internet connection. Since they are not as focused on increasing their upload speeds as symmetrical internet connections, asymmetrical internet connections are usually priced lower. Therefore, if your business does not rely on high upload speeds, then implementing an asymmetrical connection can help you reduce your monthly internet costs.
  • Better Download Speed – asymmetrical internet connections may not have high upload speeds, but they do not compromise on download speeds. Download speeds are highlighted as USPs or Unique Selling Propositions by most internet service providers offering asymmetrical internet connections. If your business relies heavily on internet data download speeds and is not too dependent on upload speeds, then asymmetrical internet connections allow you to access the benefits of the internet without spending more than what is required.

Business Suitability – Symmetrical Internet Connection or Asymmetrical Internet Connection

Both symmetrical, as well as asymmetrical internet connections come with their own set of attributes that make them uniquely special depending on your business usage, budget, and requirements. We have created the following scenarios where one of these two technologies will fit appropriately.

Symmetrical Internet Connection

  • It certainly makes sense to invest in an internet connection that offers symmetrical speeds if you are a large or a mid-sized company with a substantial number of employees or if the carriers offer shared fiber based services that are within your budget.
  • It is also useful for those businesses where the main internet usage revolves around accessing collaboration tools including voice and UCaaS.
  • As mentioned above, symmetrical internet connection is highly recommended if your business requires extensive movement of applications or services to the cloud. This is also recommended if a portion of your team is situated in a separate geographical location. These can be multiple locations, sites, or even remote workers.
  • Multiple connections are needed for redundancy and increased reliability
  • Lastly, use symmetrical internet connections if you are witnessing reductions in productivity as a result of bottlenecks or if you want to scale up your operations and provide for growth.

Asymmetrical Internet Connection

  • Asymmetrical internet connections are suitable for branches or home-based workers in households with a few members and average internet activity.
  • They are also recommended for small businesses with few employees accessing the internet and with few tasks that may require consistently high upload speeds.
  • Even if your business is a midsize or a large company but your internet users do not rely much on the internet other than for surfing the web, then you can implement asymmetrical internet connections. This, however, will not work if your internet usage is heavy.
  • DSL and Cable Coax connections tend to be less reliable than fiber based solutions so you’ll want to consider the cost of an outage and the related business losses as compared to the higher cost of a shared or dedicated fiber internet connection.
  • Lastly, asymmetrical internet connections may be suitable for your business if your company is located in a single location and does not have any other offices and are not a part of any larger network.

Technology is certainly not constant in the world today, so it is very important to keep this in mind while selecting between different types of internet access connections. You’ll also want to make sure that you provision services and plan ahead for the future if your business is likely to grow and expand into an entity employing numerous staff members. If you have future business initiatives that will require more data or voice usage, then you may want to consider a symmetrical connection from day one since it can more easily be expanded. A symmetrical connection will also be more reliable since it is fiber based and is not susceptible to outages and problems often associated with copper-based solutions such as DSL and cable coax. Whatever you choose, CarrierBid will be here to help you decide so please fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch with you right away.

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